Lawyers Giving Back looks at a side of lawyers you don’t hear too much about—the side that gives back…pays it forward..and shares the love. We’ve found quite a number of attorneys who log non-billable hours helping others—simply because they believe it’s the right thing to do. Their stories are inspiring, and hey, who knew lawyers were so…good? If you’ve got a story to share about an attorney who’s doing the right thing, let us know—we’d love to let others know, too. Today, we’re talking with Florida attorney Michael Blickensderfer…
Attorney Michael Blickensderfer: “You think they are small or unimportant donations, and you don’t realize the impact that will have on others.”
A quiet spoken attorney with a very loud and clear commitment to the community around him, Michael Blickensderfer made a decision to open his wallet and open it wide. Although the Blick Law Firm may do a bit of legal work for free from time to time in the classic pro bono definition, Blickensderfer, a former prosecutor and public defender in New York and Florida, decided he’d step to the plate with cold, hard cash.
The firm contributes up to 10 percent of its annual income to charity. “It varies,” says the very modest Blickensderfer, “a tithe is 10 percent, we are not always faithful to that amount, but we try to be consistent.”
After 25 years in public service and a brief turn at private practice in three other Florida firms, Blickensderfer went out on his on own two years ago. Together with his wife as the office administrator and his daughter as the marketing and community liaison, the Blickensderfers have established their own very personal way doing things.
The Blick Law Firm has established relationships with about a dozen organizations, from the St. Jude’s Hospital for Children to a Christian motorcycle riders association to a suicide prevention organization. “These are groups we have connected with sometimes out of personal relationships with some of their members, sometimes people come to us or perhaps it is through a client,” says Blickensderfer. “We discuss as a family where we can best put our resources and make a difference.”
Primarily a personal injury practice, Blickensderfer provides a range of other legal services from bankruptcy law to real estate. They regularly reach out to organizations and participate in community events. “Sometimes we hear about a needy family through some of these organizations,” says Blickensderfer, who is a committed Christian. “It touches your heart, you feel compassion and just you feel the need to reach out and help.”
“On New Year’s day we went to the Christian Motorcycle Riders Association event,” says Blickensderfer. “We just showed up and gave them a donation. We didn’t think we did that much but they were so grateful.”
“We were just putting a little gas in their tanks; they really go out and do all the hard work. They’re out there with their ‘tanks on fire’ ready to do things and we were pleased to able to help them,” Blickensderfer says.
Although Blickensderfer, who is also a former US Marine, says there are a lot of lawyers out there who volunteer their time he prefers to go the ‘donation’ route. “A lot of lawyers at other firms do a lot of pro bono work,” he adds. “I don’t do that much in the classical sense of pro bono.”
The firm is developing a bit of a reputation around Tampa for its generosity but Blickensderfer says people still seem surprised to see him arrive with a check in hand. “We just want to help the best way we can,” he says. “I think people are surprised in this day and age when anyone goes out of their way to help.”
“You think they are small or unimportant donations, and you don’t realize the impact that will have on others,” he adds.
“I wish we could do more,” says Blickensderfer. “We have a lot to be thankful for and I count my blessings when I look at others and see how many people are in need.”
“I thought I had problems,” says Blickensderfer with a smile and a bit of humor in his voice.
Lucky for Tampa Bay, Blickensderfer came to town with his check book.
Michael Blickensderfer has a degree in business administration from Ohio State University and earned his J.D. at the Seton Hall University School of Law in New Jersey. The Blick Law Firm, based in Tampa, FL, handles personal injury litigation, bankruptcy law, wrongful death lawsuits, medical malpractice cases, as well as other areas of law.